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Bell County commissioners vote to leave confederate statue in place

Bell County commissioners voted to keep the confederate statue in front of the courthouse in place until it can be put to a county wide vote.

BELTON, Texas — Bell County commissioners voted to keep a Confederate statue in place in front of the courthouse Monday morning until it can be put to a county-wide election.

County Judge David Blackburn said, while commissioners voted to let the public decide, it can't actually happen until the state legislature makes a change to state law. Under current state law, the commissioner court of a county with a population of less than 40,000 may order a nonbinding referendum in the county on any matter affecting county property.

"What will be required is a change in state law, so that's what we intend to pursue," Judge Blackburn said.

The vote was 4-1 with Commissioner John Driver as the only dissenting vote. Blackburn's vote was counted as a yes because he did not vote no or abstain.

In his comments, Driver mentioned hearing about a sticking point, the courthouse and the statue being outside of it. He suggested moving the commissioner's court to the justice center in Belton. It would make the courthouse just a museum.

"That statue could stay where it should because this will be a museum and all of the stuff should be happening over at the justice center," Commissioner Driver said.

Driver said otherwise, as a body, they should look at moving the statue and keep the courthouse as the center of the county government.

"Right now, it is in conflict with many. Not all, with many," Driver said. "None of us can say what each generation, what different people see. We only know what we know. We only know what we hear."

The vote comes after commissioners held multiple public meetings over the summer to get input on whether to remove it, relocate it or keep it in place.

Blackburn said in August he supported putting the issue up to a public vote.

"I really do think it's a matter that should be decided by more than three people and three votes," Blackburn said.  

The topic resurfaced after Belton Citizens for Change called for the removal of the monument in June.

The University of Mary Hardin Baylor President Randy O'Rear offered to pay $10,000 in July toward the cost of relocating it.